Cheeky blighters!

Some cheeky blighter has used my work Visa card for nefarious purposes.

Apparently the cunning chaps use new fangled computer thingies to put bunches of random 16-digit card numbers and expiry dates into iTunes to purchase songs. When one works, they know that they have a valid card number/expiry date combo and can go shopping.

Thankfully, those clever boffins at the NatWest also use them there computing machines and spotted that, with my work Visa, I’m unlikely to purchase songs on iTunes and then go shopping for t-shirts from a luxury Japanese clothing company. (Of course, with my personal Visa, anything is possible). Consequently, when I was trying to make a purchase this afternoon, I had to get on the blower to convince the NatWest that I am the real me. They kindly suggest that I feed my current card to a pack of wild dogs and await the delivery of a shiny new card. Meanwhile, they’ve refunded the undesired transactions to my account, made sure that the cheeky blighters can’t make any more transcations (apparently they had already tried, twice) and have been awfully helpful.

Dastardly scamps! They should be hung by their thumbs from the nearest mighty oak!

LAN questions

I’ve just converted a printer that was (dodgily, due, I suspect, to a faulty wireless card) connected to my WLAN to being a LAN printer by using a wireless bridge (no, really). It’s been a success, and I’m no wondering if I could perhaps use a switch and connect a few other peripherals into the LAN via the same bridge.

One of the peripherals I’m keen to connect is an external HDD that I use to backup my laptop. Theoretically, my laptop gets backed-up every Thursday at 6pm. But that assumes that it is at my desk and connected to the HDD by USB cable. I’d like it to backup, no matter where on the WLAN it is (conservatory, living room, office, wherever). The HDD does not have an ethernet socket. So, is there a device that I can plug the HDD into that will act as an external ethernet card for it, so that I can then link that external ethernet card into the LAN? Or should I just buy a new HDD with an ethernet card built in?

I’m free! I’m free!

This morning, I had the plaster cast removed. Thank goodness for that!

I now have a “double tubigrip” arrangement on my left foot/ankle/leg and have been given instruction to gently start walking again. I can only manage a handful of steps at one go before it becomes too painful/uncomfortable, but the doctor reckons that I should progressively get stronger and more mobile by early next week. He reckons that the majority of the damage (or possibly even all of it) is muscular, not bone.

Frankly, being able to move around again is great. I was starting to become a bit of a bear-with-a-sore-head (or sore leg) and could easily have become utterly insufferable for my family. But I’m looking forward to having a soak in the bath tonight and not relying on Hels to wash my hair (I couldn’t get in the shower to do it and found it rather precarious to lather my barnet whilst balanced on one foot). And, most of all, I’m looking forward to being able to drive again and get back to proper work rahter than the half-hearted work I’ve done for the last ten days.


Geoffrey Smith, RIP.

I remember watching Geoffrey Smith’s World Of Flowers when it was first broadcast, although I can’t have been more than 11 or 12 at the time. It was a stunning series, years ahead of its time. Now we are used to series (often on BBC4) that tackle a subject in depth with lots of footage shot on location around the world and fronted by an expert who is passionate about their subject and gets their message across through sheer force of personality (I’m thinking of people like Jim al-Khalili and Rageh Omaar). That series was a great influence on me, tackling a different genus in each episode and getting across the personality of the plants concerned, the people involved in their introduction and development in cultivation and the places and locations from which they originate.

It would be going too far to say that the programme had a direct influence on my choice of future career (other circumstances in my life had far greater influence), but it was certainly in the background. I hope that they repeat it soon as a tribute – it would be of interest to anyone, not just gardening enthusiasts.

Breaking a duck, err bone, duck… bone.

We have just taken the opportunity to have a little holiday. Well, that was the plan. I had to go to Angers for an exhibition and took H and T along with me, something we have done for four out of the last five years.

After staying in Angers for a couple of nights and a (very successful) day at the exhibition, we took the car to Saint Malo, via Rennes and Dinan. We got to our hotel and wandered into the Intra Muros, had a nice meal and then, to entertain Tom, clambered up onto the city wall to head back towards the hotel. So far, so good. But it was mightily dark and I decided to carry Tom as we descended the stone steps. Hels stumbled on the last step as we went down. And then I fell down on the same step, heavily. I managed to hold on to Tom and lower him gently to the step. But I had a fair idea that I’d really hurt myself. I could tell this by the tears in my eyes and nausea, not to mention the pain.

We hobbled back to the hotel and went to bed. But, in the morning, it became quite evident that I was in agony. The evidence consisted of me yelping with pain whenever I stood up, and yelping twice as much if I put any weight on my left foot.

With guidance from the hotel receptionist, Hels took me over to the hospital. After a short wait, an x-ray revealed the tiniest chip off a bone. My reward – a French plaster cast with matching crutches and painkillers. My first damaged bone. Bugger.

We changed our homeward travel arrangements and got ourselves on the next ferry from Saint Malo to Portsmouth (we originally planned to travel to Dieppe and then back to Newhaven – but if ever you take that boat, pack a lunch as the food is utter crap). I’m hoping that my insurers will pay for the change of ferry plans and the lost night of accommodation (about four hundred quid in total).

Since then, I’ve seen umpteen medical people and been the centre of much attention. I’ve got to wear the cast for at least ten days before it is swapped for a removable boot. Which means I can’t drive, can’t put weight on it and can’t walk more than a few paces. Which will make life a little difficult, to say the least.

And, to top it all, Tom has chickenpox. Spots. Lots of them. And itchy.

Hels has got her work cut out. She’s pretty amazing.

Happy Christmas

The hyperactive child is asleep. The wife is wrapping presents. Monty is in his basket. Treacle is sitting next to me.

Me? I’ve just signed my Corporation Tax return and written a fat cheque to the Revenue.

Ho ho and, indeed, ho. Merry Christmas.

Waaay behind

I’m waaay behind. Way behind with work. Way behind with stuff that needs doing around the house. Way behind in keeping in contact with people (sorry). Way behind in sleep. Way behind in blogging.

Part of the reason is that this weekend sees the 14th Garden Event at West Dean. Last year we were royally rained upon – 32mm in the first few hours. I’ve confidently been telling people that we couldn’t possibly have two years in a row like that, but the forecast suggests that I might be wrong. Oh well, at least Sunday looks a bit better, and West Dean is on a shallow soil over gravel, so drains remarkbly quickly.

Anyway, do come along. It will be good – plants, tools, equipment – in fact, pretty much everything garden related, plus a good selection of food and drink. Bring an umbrella to keep you dry and some cash to spend. And your mere presence will cheer me up.

UPDATE: the forecast now says that we should miss the worst of the rain tomorrow during the day (it will be damp, rather than wet, when we are setting-up in the morning). The heaviest rain will pass through overnight tomorrow, so I’m hoping we might just get away with it.

Now, what should I write?

Canon have emailed me today. They’ve invited me to take part in a customer satisfaction survey regarding their online and telephone tech support.

I think I need a day or two to thoroughly consider exactly what form of words to employ. However, your suggestions are, as always, welcome. The comments await you.

Making a nuisance

I’ve been having problems with nuisance calls on my business line. They call, it rings, I pick up… *click*…. they hang up.

Ho hum. 1471. Telephone number: 0800 389 6818.

A quick Google search reveals that gazillions of people are having the same problem. This is a marketing company and they use a computer to dial zillions of numbers, including mine. It hangs up. You 1471erise the number and call back. They try to sell you something (mobile telephony, broadband, double glazing, whatever) – earning money as they go from their 0800 number (yes, they earn money from that).

But, the good news is that you can stop it. Well, in theory you can. There is a free service called SilentCallGard. You dial a number (0870 444 3969 – or go online), punch in your number and it subscribes you for two years (although the website says 12 months). It blocks all automated calls from these evil phone spammers, although be warned that it only blocks calls from companies that are signed up to its register and membership of the register is not obligatory.

So, we shall see if it works.

Printer update – better news

On Friday, I finally got a reply out of Canon tech support. They had decided that it was beyond them and that my machine required a service. A number was supplied in order to make an appointment.

Canon outsource their servicing to an organisation called CURA. Dealing with them is, after my experiences with Canon, a revelation. I called the number yesterday. I spoke to a human being. He gave me some instructions by email to reset the printer which I tried – but they didn’t work. They then called me to arrange for an engineer to visit – and I had in mind that I’d have to ship my machine to some servicing depot. The engineer came today and was here for two hours. He tried everything, of that I have no doubt. His conclusion is that the network card on the machine is faulty, so he has ordered a replacement part. Later this afternoon, I had another call to make a new appointment for him to come back and fit the new card – he’ll be coming Tuesday (I was offered an earlier appointment which I couldn’t do and we lose two days for the holiday). The engineer was genuinely sorry that he’d been defeated by the machine.

If only Canon tech support had the same level of service and same approach as these CURA people! If they had, I wouldn’t have got so annoyed with Canon and wouldn’t have bored you rigid with all these posts about my printer. As it is, I’m still not inclined to buy another Canon product because I don’t want to go through all this again. But I’ll be keeping that CURA number safe.

The only thing that isn’t certain is whether the repair will work. All we can do is keep fingers crossed. Inevitably, I will update the story here.